Carol Pipes has been helping tell the stories of God’s work around the world. As the editor of Facts & Trends, she has helped Southern Baptist churches apply the unchanging gospel to changing times. Previously, she served with the North American Mission Board as editor of On Mission, which tells the story about the good work of Southern Baptist churches in North America. She serves on the board of the Evangelical Press Association and has received numerous awards for her work.
Dan Darling: Let’s talk about your calling. Has writing and editing been a lifetime pursuit or something you picked up late in life? And if so, what first interested in you in words?
Carol Pipes: I’ve been a fan of good storytelling for as long as I can remember. I was one of those kids who would rather be reading a book than riding bikes or playing in the yard. Books allowed me to travel to other times and places. The characters and plot twists provided grand adventures outside the Middle Tennessee town where I grew up. The love of story has stayed with me throughout my life and career.
I didn’t start writing until I was in college. Editing came several years later. Early in my career, I realized I loved writing for and about the Church. It’s been my privilege to work on two magazines, now, whose purposes are to assist the Church in its mission of making disciples.
DD: We live in an age when anyone can be published instantly via social media, personal blogs, book reviews, etc. Explain the value of a good editor.
CP: I had an editor who always reminded me, “a good editor can make even a mediocre writer’s words sing.” Editors do more than correct grammar. They sift through the clutter and help writers get to the point. I’ve always loved the meticulous work of editing a piece for publication—finding a more descriptive verb, changing passive voice to active, cutting needless words. Editors help writers say what they’re trying to say, sharpen their ideas, and offer a perspective they might have missed. That’s the value of a good editor.
Everyone needs an editor, even me (or is it I? See what I mean?). I need someone to take a red pen and bleed all over my work and show me how to make my work better. That’s how writers grow and learn. Feedback is a gift. If you don’t have an editor, ask a friend or coworker you trust to review your work.
DD: Is there a distinctly “Christian” way you do your work? In other words, does your personal theology affect the practice of writing and editing?
CP: My hope is every word, every sentence I publish would honor God, stand for truth, and help build Christ’s church. I’ve been given a great privilege to steward a magazine for Christian leaders. I don’t take that lightly.
DD: When you are making decisions about content to publish, how are you evaluating the writer, the piece, and the publication?
CP: As an editor, I have a responsibility to serve the magazine’s audience. Our readers are giving us their time and their trust, and I want to honor that. When considering content for Facts & Trends, our editorial team asks several questions. Does this article fit the mission of the magazine? Does the article provide new information or does the author provide insight in a new, creative way? Does the author communicate effectively and persuasively? Does this article provide substantial take-away for the reader?
Facts & Trends strives to be a source of information and knowledge, as well as a helpful resource for church leaders. We see the Church as God’s missionary agent—called to make disciples of all nations. It is because of this call that we want to be a resource to church leaders as they make and grow disciples who make disciples. Our content decisions are constantly being driven by the needs of our readers and how we can best help them with their ministry.
DD: Who are some of the formative writing influences that have shaped the way you go about your work?
CP: I’d have to say my writing is most influenced by my former and current coworkers. When I first entered the publishing field, I knew very little about the industry. Fortunately, I had a wonderful editor, Carolyn Curtis, who mentored me. She can slice and dice an article with the best of them. Not only did she help me become a better writer, she taught me how to produce a magazine from concept to finished product. It’s a gift to have someone pour themselves and their knowledge into you like that. Through the years, I’ve worked with other talented editors and writers who have all left an imprint on my work. Of course, the team of writers and editors at Facts & Trends—Aaron Earls, Lisa Green, and Bob Smietana—are always inspiring me to bring my best every day.
Rick Bragg is one of my favorite authors. His writing style is one I wish I could mimic. I’d love to write humorous stories about growing up in small-town Tennessee. Unfortunately, I’m not that funny.
There’s a wealth of writing mentorship in print. One of my favorite books on writing is Stephen King’s On Writing. And anything by Roy Peter Clark is worth a read. I also keep a dog-eared copy of Strunk and White’s Elements of Style within eyesight of my desk as a simple reminder that the fundamentals of good writing are always relevant. Sure, language changes and styles shift, but good writing and strong storytelling never go out of style.
DD: What is one piece of advice you would like to give aspiring writers as they seek to get published?
CP: Before you ever make your first pitch to a publication, read several issues. As you’re reading, take note of the voice and style of the publication. Research everything you can about that particular publication. Ask for writers’ guidelines. Once you’ve done your research, pitch an article you know will fit the magazine’s editorial needs. I can always tell by the query if a writer has read our magazine or not.